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Q&A with Content Director of LittleThings – Creating a Halo of Positive Content

The Content Director at LittleThings shares her secrets about how social media and quality content create big virality, and how her team uses social signal technology to waste less time searching and spend more time creating.

LittleThings was one of the best publishers of compelling Facebook content in 2015, along with being one of our top newcomers. Their top content was our best on Facebook, with nearly 1.8 million engagements. 

Armed with the data that their uplifting news site works, LittleThings has some not-so-little things planned for 2016. We spoke with Maia McCann, Director of Content, to discover how Spike makes a difference in the Little Things newsroom.

 

What is your role at LittleThings? What does a typical day look like for you?

 

I’m the Director of Content, and I lead 25 writers, editors, producers, and designers in the curation and creation of uplifting and inspiring content geared toward women over 30.

A typical day for me starts at 8 a.m. with a look at traffic and trends, prioritizing with my social team and editorial staff. Between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., just about everyone on the 18th floor is scanning through Spike. At around 9:30 a.m., pitch meetings begin.

After that, it’s anyone’s guess. Sometimes I dip into pitch meetings, other times I’m with tech and product looking for better ways to optimize our article page. Recently, we had a mini therapy horse named Deputy Magic visit the office, so I spent a few hours coordinating his transport. I’m not kidding.

 

LittleThings has been growing apace and had the top Facebook content in our 2015 rankings. Congrats! How do you and your colleagues go about achieving this success?

 

LittleThings’ Facebook growth from 3.5 to 8 million followers in the first year can be attributed to the power of positive content. Positivity has a halo effect—not only are people comfortable and more likely to share positive content on their social networks, but it also leaves them with a good feeling and has them coming back for more.

People are more likely to share positive content on social, says @maiastar of @LittleThingsUSA Click To Tweet

A quarter of our almost 50 million monthly readers visit LittleThings daily. According to research by Michelle Gielan and the Huffington Post, “Those who watched transformative stories reported having a good day 88 percent of the time.” That’s a big part of our secret sauce.

 

Has LittleThings had much success on alternative social platforms, such as Reddit? Or is Facebook the main show?

 

Facebook is the main show — and they’ve become a valued partner. We love Facebook, and we are one of 50 publishers invited to participate in Facebook Instant Articles, which we’re extremely excited about! With that having been said, we’re also researching and potentially investing in growing our Pinterest presence with nearly 5 million followers, and we were recently added to Google in the News.

A breakdown of LittleThings’s traffic distribution from SimilarWeb. Nearly 90% of their traffic comes from social channels.
A breakdown of LittleThings’s traffic distribution from SimilarWeb. Nearly 90% of their traffic comes from social channels.

 

How do you and others at LittleThings use Spike from NewsWhip in your daily workflow?

 

Our trending editor is on Spike early, but she keeps it open throughout the day in order to find trending videos. One “hidden” benefit of using Spike is for finding new sources for aggregation. If you find one hit piece of content from a certain source, it’s fairly likely that you’ll find another tomorrow or the next day.

Lastly, our top writer swears by Spike for finding local news gems that have the makings of a highly trafficked story.

We found NJ.com’s video of Miss Colorado’s monologue on Saturday when it had only accumulated 200,000 views over 48 hours. Our trending editor identified it as viral, used our “storytelling lens” to frame it for our readers, and by Sunday morning, the video had been viewed over 2.5 million times by LittleThings’ readers. The story of Miss Colorado’s unusual but powerful talent performance went on to be picked up by The View, Ellen, and Dr. Oz the following week.

A video posted by @LittleThingsUSA rocketed from 200k to 2.5 million views when they posted it #winning Click To Tweet

Things used to flow from traditional media to digital media — we’re flipping the script by picking up on the little stories that turn into major media discussions because products like Spike allow us to be nimble. We waste less time searching and spend more time producing.

 

How important are analytics in measuring success at LittleThings? What’s in your toolkit?

 

Analytics are super-important. Our approach to testing involves not only looking at CTR of a headline/thumbnail combination, but also passing or failing a piece of content based on key engagement metrics. We base passing versus failing on a regression analysis of over 20,000 pieces of content.

 

Has LittleThings discovered any interesting or unique things in its analytics data that you can share with our readers?

 

What makes us unique is that we’re NOT optimizing for the “clickiest” version; we’re trying to create fully realized stories that our audience feels compelled to click, like, and share. I think of articles and content as presents. The measure of CTR tells us if we’re good at gift-wrapping, but our engagement levels tell us whether or not we’re good gift-givers.

ed: LittleThings’s top Facebook post in December was this cute DIY muffin tin advent calendar, with over 416,000 engagements.

 

Do you have any advice for other social media professionals and publishers about how to get ahead and stay relevant?

 

The secret to creating killer content is writing about something that you know and love. Viral content rarely comes from a “marketing guru” rehashing something for virality — most often, it comes from people speaking their truth.

Real recognizes real, so don’t try and create a funny video that you think your audience will like. Create something you love, and that you would want to share with your network instead.

 

Previously in this series:

 

1) Kelly Burke, TheDodo
2) Michael Bolen, CBC News

 

Next:

 

1) Take a free trial of Spike to join the leading digital newsrooms in finding the content that matters
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